Jill Tarter thinks that Craig Venter and Daniel Cohen may not have been bold enough when they declared in 2004 that the 21st Century would be the century of biology. “I think the 21st Century is going to be the century of biology on Earth—and beyond,” Tarter declared during a talk at last month’s meeting of the Rose City Astronomers in Portland, Oregon. Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute and former director of the Center for SETI Research, thinks there are many ways we might find extraterrestrial intelligence.
EAA (Electronically Assisted Astronomy) is an exciting, emerging new form of astronomy that our club members are embracing at a quick pace. EAA offers a hybrid form of observing, that mixes near-real time imaging (photography) with traditional observing through the use of specialized equipment. Essentially, a camera replaces the eyepiece, but instead of long-exposure imaging (what many imagers do to produce those stunning photos of deep space objects, but it often takes hours of capture time and then equally long periods of post-processing on the computer for many days after the capture), the EAA camera takes a sequence of very short exposures, and then a software program quickly stacks and stretches the images, using a few configurations/instructions preset by the observer, to yield often stunning views of objects.
We are very pleased to announce that a delegation from the board of the Geologic Society of Oregon Country (GSOC), including our own Paul Edison-Lahm, will be joining us for our May 11-13 Camp Hancock star party. The “GSOCers” will be sharing their knowledge of the local John Day basin geology and will in turn be learning from us about dark sky observing. All board members have had training in star party etiquette and their impact on parking and cabin space should be minimal.
RCA, GSOC, and OMSI share a long history at Camp Hancock originating with its namesake Lon Hancock, an amateur geologist and charter member of GSOC. Lon devoted many years to exploring the paleontology of the John Day region and was the first in Oregon to discover an Eocene vertebrate fossil: a rhinoceros tooth embedded in a nut in the nut-beds above the camp. A 1951 OMSI field trip led by Hancock and other GSOC members would quickly become “Camp Hancock” and plant the seeds for the OMSI Astronomers, a parent organization to RCA.
We are all still saddened by the sudden loss of our friend and member, Peter Abrahams on March 4 to a heart attack while visiting his family in Los Angeles. The more I talk to his family and other club members, the more I learn about his wide range of talents and accomplishments.
Peter was probably the least self-promotional person I’ve ever met, yet he cast a wide net in both science and the arts. Fortunately, David Nemo, another past president, is working on preserving Peter’s works from his website, and already someone has stepped forward saying he’d like to take up some of the archival work that Peter was doing. There is a longer memorial article, including many comments from friends remembering Peter, in this article below.
This article appeared in the Rosette Gazette in July, 2008. Dale Fenske is a past president of RCA and former liaison to the Astronomical League. Republished with his permission.
Has it really been 20 years? Time goes so quickly. It seems like only yesterday when I exchanged my 60mm Sears refractor for a giant 10“ Cave reflector with a German equatorial mount. (At that time a monster scope was 12 ½”.) I was anticipating some serious astronomy with the Messier list as the agenda. My new scope could view many deep sky objects that I had been missing with the 60mm telescope. Frustration is the word for what came next.
RCA Youth Programs and Outreach are looking to put together a fleet of 6-8 telescopes for kids to use at various outreach events. In particular, we are looking for donations of table-top, alt-azimuth mount Newtonian telescopes such as the 114mm aperture, f/4, 450 mm focal length Orion Starblast,Meade Lightbridge Mini, or similar.
RCA participates in many events bringing astronomy to kids in the metro area. We would like to be able to provide an even more meaningful experience by giving them the opportunity to use the telescopes themselves.
If you have one these sitting in your garage or closet gathering dust, these telescopes would be put to excellent use by allowing kids a chance to observe through a telescope for the first time. We would be very appreciative of any and all donations of these telescopes. For telescope donations and questions, please contact Yara at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mike at email@example.com.
Support City-Wide Lighting Standard with Your Letter to Portland City Commissioners
Thomas Lovejoy, “The Godfather of Biodiversity” said, "If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big problems in the world." The same might be said about light pollution. Reduce light pollution and you reduce its harmful, biological effects to birds, fish, frogs, trees, and most forms of life that have evolved in sync with the clockwork of day and night --- including humans. Reduce light pollution and you reduce energy waste caused by unnecessarily lighting the sky or your neighbor’s bedroom. Reduce light pollution and we may make streets and neighborhoods safer. More studies are showing that certain outdoor lighting may invite crime, not deter it. More and more people are heard saying, “I avoid driving at night; the lights are blinding.”
As you know, RCA is comprised of many amazing volunteers who generously give their time to share their passion and love for astronomy and science with the community. Whether it is setting up a telescope at a star party with students or a private event, working with kids in the classroom, or talking with people at a resource table at a maker fair or farmer's market - RCA volunteers are there!
The first question you may be asking yourself is "How do I volunteer?" Maybe you have never done astronomy outreach before. No problem! There are different ways to volunteer, depending on what you like to do. If you like to do star parties, but don't have a telescope? Let us know. We can find a way to get you connected with the equipment you need. Do you like to develop activities for kids? We can work on putting together content for different school requests. You don't have to know everything about astronomy to volunteer. We can bring you up to speed on what you want to know. Not sure how to work a telescope? We can partner you with someone who does and you can work together.
The topic of technology and observing have come up again recently with the appearance of yet another technology that is likely to revolutionize observing: Electronically Enhanced Astronomy (EEA), such as is used by the recently Kickstarted Unistellar eVscope (image from their website).
This development is likely to stir up the kind of discussion and debate that the advent of GoTo technology brought up twenty years ago. There’s already lively discussion about it on our Forum and other amateur astronomy boards.
I propose to settle the debate from the start: technology always wins. So let’s predict that EEA is going to revolutionize our hobby and I hope for the better. But I am always the voice that says: don’t let the technology overtake our enjoyment of the sky and the stars that fill those gorgeous nights.
Observing Survey:If you haven’t filled out the survey regarding our observing site choices, time is getting short. We appreciate hearing from everyone who fills it out.
Astro-Imaging Class: Registration for the Astro-Imaging Class is still open. The cost of the class is $20, and class is limited to forty people. It’s filling rapidly so if you want to start at the very beginning and move into the mid-weeds of imaging, this is the class for you.
Camp Hancock: Registration for Camp Hancock is open until March 10. We are limited to 45 RCA members and guests and registration is filling up for this popular event.
Youth Astronomy Class:The Youth Astronomy Class registration is still open. Classes start in March, so if you know of a youth who wants to learn about astronomy and observing, we encourage our members to point them this direction.
Youth Award: We’re still interested in awarding money to young people who do something of merit regarding astronomy and the sciences. Contact our Youth Director if you know of a project that might qualify.
Until the skies clear, I hope we all get to enjoy our winter days!